Dog Days

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Aug 22 07:32:33 MDT 2003

NY Times, August 22, 2003
Lives Can Come Unglued in Tropical Vienna (Vienna?)

"Dog Days" was shown as part of this year's New Directors/New Films 
series. Following are excerpts from Elvis Mitchell's review, which 
appeared in The New York Times on April 1. The film, in German with 
English subtitles, opens today in Manhattan.

The director Ulrich Seidl's "Dog Days," which takes place during the 
miserably hot summer in Vienna, is a roiling mix of anger, resentment 
and need: the often destructive power of love. We see this in the first 
sequence, when the belligerently jealous Mario (René Wanko) threatens 
the guys who look at his girlfriend, Klaudia (Franziska Weiss); he seems 
to leave pools of testosterone wherever he steps.

After he forces her unwanted suitors away and floors his car through the 
streets of Vienna, he screams at Klaudia and throws her out of the car. 
We then get the credit sequence, with several groups of people shown 
sunning themselves under the piercing sun; the pictures could be a 
melting mess bringing together Francis Bacon and David Hockney.

With these shots of the pale cast of characters, we can almost feel the 
melanoma developing. Mr. Seidl treats the chemistry of human 
relationships like a cancer, an enormous growth that, unchecked, leads 
to disease.



Dog Days

As I sat watching Ulrich Seidl's "Dog Days," I was reminded of the 
affluent but unhappy northern Europe shown in such films as "The New 
Country," whose point of view is that of the newly arrived and desperate 
third world immigrant. Unlike "The New Country," also shown at New 
Directors/New Film Festival 2002, there are no immigrants in this 
film--just tortured locals whose material possessions cannot satisfy a 
hunger of the heart. At the conclusion of this review, I will reveal why 
my impressions were not accidental.

Set in the suburbs of Vienna, the camera reveals a middle-class 
capitalist utopia. As late-model cars drive back and forth, we see an 
endless procession of shopping malls with well-stocked chain stores. 
Serving as a kind of Greek chorus, a mentally unbalanced hitchhiker 
pesters each driver with a series of quizzes about this brave new world. 
What are the ten most admired department stores? Before they can answer, 
she rattles them off. Who are the ten sexiest on-air television 
hostesses? Again, she has the answer. She teaches one driver the words 
to an advertising jingle for soap. Before long, the driver and the 
audience realize that she is not only a victim of obsessional thinking, 
but of the late capitalist variety.



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